They are the “Study Sisters” — five women, all traveling along diverse paths, with the shared dream to become B’not Mitzvah. One Jew by choice, and four Jewish women who missed out on the opportunity to read from the Torah, came together at Congregation B’nai Torah in Sudbury on June 11 to make the journey together.
“When adults come together of their own volition, making a choice to become B’not Mitzvah, not just because they’ve reached a certain age, but because it’s a personal goal, it’s powerful,” said B’nai Torah’s Cantorial Soloist Jodi Blankstein, who met with the group weekly over the past 18 months.
The group included a woman in the process of conversion, whose daughter will become a Bat Mitzvah next winter, former educators and administrators, a yoga instructor, and an executive director. Meeting weekly, the students practiced chanting blessings, studied individual prayers, and learned to read troupe patterns—the markings in the Torah that indicate how words are chanted. Each student’s binder contained the entire service in Hebrew as well as transliterations. Teasing out Hebrew roots allowed students to understand the meaning behind prayers and gain a deeper understanding of the words chanted together on Shabbat.
Rabbi Eiduson met with the women as they prepared their Divrei Torah, guiding them and offering insight into their shared Torah portion. Each “Sister” then wrote a sequential portion to create a beautifully flowing D’var.
“There is no greater privilege than working with adult learners and introducing them to serious Jewish study. The women who are becoming B’not Mitzvah have worked diligently not only to learn Hebrew and prepare the many different sections of the service, but they have also embraced the broader message of this life-cycle occasion—something that our 13-year-olds simply do not have the developmental capacity to achieve,” said Eiduson. “That is, they are committing to become life-long Jewish learners, to joyously practice Judaism and Jewish rituals inside and outside the synagogue, and to make the world a better place through social justice and deeds of lovingkindness.”
“One of the most meaningful movements in my cantorial career took place in May when the women rehearsed together for their B’not Mitzvah, each chanting from the Torah Scroll for the first time,” said Blankstein. “It was the first time we had been physically together since the COVID lockdown began. As one Study Sister took her place on the Bimah and began chanting from the Torah, she was overcome by the emotion of achieving this extraordinary personal goal. “It was an incredibly powerful moment in time for all of us.”
Main Photo: Robin Neuman of Sudbury, Jane Golder of Framingham, Meghan Lytton of LinRobin Neuman of Sudbury, Jane Golder of Framingham, Meghan Lytton of Lincoln, Cantorial Soloist Jodi Blankstein, Jan Binus of Sudbury, and Robin Berman of Framingham during a B’not Mitzvah rehearsal at Congregation B’nai Torah. Photo credit: Jody Weinberg Kotkin